For the second day running, lawyers in Pakistan have demonstrated their opposition to emergency rule. It comes as the sacked chief justice called on the Pakistani people to rise up and restore the constitution. The rallies were smaller and tamer than yesterday when hundreds were detained. But there were serious disturbances in the central city of Multan where lawyers clashed with police.
The legal system is at the centre of this crisis. Pervez Musharraf’s emergency measure was widely seen as a bid to prevent the Supreme Court invalidating his recent re-election as president. After dismissing justices deemed difficult there, he has been filling the Court’s benches with more amenable figures. They have already begun reversing their predecessors’ decisions.
Although under house arrest, deposed top judge Iftikhar Chaudhry has managed to get a message out. He called for a popular uprising, saying the constitution had been ripped to shreds. Pervez Musharraf cited hostile judges as well as spiralling militancy to justify his action.
Ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has headed to Islamabad. But she insists she won’t meet, let alone negotiate with, the military president. “I know such rumours are circulating because we keep getting these reports that I am about to become the interim prime minister of a caretaker set-up,” she said. “I can assure you that is not the case. These reports are all false.”
So far however, Bhutto has failed to call for concrete action from her supporters, leaving lawyers wondering whether they will be left to pursue street protests alone.